Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger narrates an emotional tribute to Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the beloved London venue’s 150th birthday. The short film finds the rock icon reading a portion of English poet W.H. Auden’s 1964 ode to friendships past and present at a time when the building that has hosted everyone from Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters and Iggy Pop over the years sits in silence a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Distance and duties divide us But absence will not seem an evil/ If it make our re-meeting/ A real occasion. Come when you can:/ Your room will be ready,” Jagger says over footage of performances by the above, as well as Jethro Tull, Adele, George Michael, Diana Ross, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Queen’s Freddie Mercury, Eric Clapton and The Who.
The 90-second short film directed by Tom Harper (Wild Rose) and scored by Oscar-winner Steven Price (Gravity) opens with silent, swooping views of the abandoned-looking venue as Jagger says, “Empty and silent most of the year, this room awaits from you what you alone as visitor can bring.” Over sentimental strings, Jagger’s words are intercut with raucous images of audiences losing their minds and dancing at shows past.
“I have some wonderful memories of performing there with the Stones in the 1960s when once or twice it did get a bit wild, with enthusiastic fans joining us on stage and almost bringing the show to an abrupt end – but we soldiered on and had a great time,” Jagger said in a recollection of the band’s 1966 final show at the venue. “Without doubt, the Royal Albert Hall is one of the greatest concert venues in the world,” he added.
As Sir Mick, 77, begins the Auden recitation, the short flashes back to footage dating to 1933, some of which has never been screened before, including film of Hendrix from 1969 and late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell in 2016, as well as Albert Einstein’s speech in 1933 decrying the Nazis. With the music swelling at the end, the screen fills with the simple message: “We’ve missed you.” While it was unknown at press time when the RAH might re-open, under new guidelines released this week, limited capacity indoor shows may begin in the UK on May 17 with a possible wider opening after June 21.
Watch the film below.